If you could picture the kind of restaurant you'd like in your neighbourhood, you'd probably picture Matteo. A new opening in the old Limoncello digs in Double Bay, Matteo is brought the labour of chef Orazio D'Elia (Da Orazio Pizza and Porchetta), Eddie Levy (Kittyhawk, Lobo Plantation and Darlo Country Club) and Adam Abrams (also of Darlo Country Club and The Island). Together, they've teamed simple Italian food with friendly service, great booze and a thumping big pizza oven.
The persuasive simplicity of D'Elia's cooking is personified in the buffalo mozzarella on lemon leaves ($12). The dish of the night, the inedible leaves have blobs of the soft cheese placed on top of them for a quick trip in the wood-fired oven. The oils and fragrance of the leaves impart a subtle citrus flavour that takes the cheesy goodness to a new level. Chilli dusted calamari ($15) is tender, crunchy and with a little heat is an easy win with a couple of Birra Ichnusa ($10) — that is, some Sicilian lagers.
The first thing you notice walking into the space is the deceptively simple, and really beautiful design. The full grey terrazzo marble bar, painted brick walls and diamond tiles — both in cream — and blonde timber tables and chairs. But the real hero is the sizeable exposed kitchen and matte white cladded wood-fired pizza oven with the most beautiful pale mint panelling encasing it. It manages to feel bright and summery but also intimate and stylish for the evening. Bravo.
The linguini hits all the right notes with soft, fresh pasta, cherry tomatoes, a hint of chilli and generous chunks of scampi; it has everything you want from a dish like this — the only thing it could have done well with is a touch more salt. The staff are confident, quick and on-point with a wine suggestion of a crisp Fattoria Uccelliera Pinot Bianco Viognier ($15) from Italy.
Fans of D'Orazio will recognise the pizza formula here: a charred, soft base and sparse, quality ingredients. The funghi option ($24) with fior di latte, stracchino cheese, forest mushrooms and pork sausages manages to be big on flavour without being too rich. The veal rib eye too ($35), which is served simply with some lemon can have the tendency to be tough, but the meat remains tender even with the crunchy deep brown crumb casing.
Finish the night off with a Fernet-Branca amaro ($10.50) and tiramisu ($12) and things are looking good. The simplicity of the formula, but the confidence in its delivery makes this a very lovely local indeed.
Images: Steven Woodburn.